URI landscape architecture student’s internships at Disney World a magical experience

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Framingham resident aims to merge landscape design, entertainment

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 6, 2011 – University of Rhode Island senior Jared Sell has been interested in plants and flowers since he was a young boy. That interest, along with a great deal of persistence, led him to two summer internships at Disney World in Orlando that he hopes will lead to a career in landscape architecture at the iconic park.

“I loved digging in the dirt when I was little,” the Framingham resident admits. “So my parents showed me an organized method of how to play in the dirt without getting in trouble. Now I’m a grown-up and still playing in the dirt.”

Beginning at age 7, Sell entered plants and exhibits in the New England Spring Flower Show, sometimes including model railroads to attract the attention of the children he knew were dragged unwillingly by their parents to the attend the event.

When he enrolled at URI in 2008 to study landscape architecture, he began making a series of phone calls to various offices at Disney World seeking an internship opportunity. His efforts eventually paid off when he was offered an internship with the park’s horticulture group.

“I worked the overnight shift at Epcot for that summer, changing out plants to keep the landscapes looking fresh and maintaining the grounds,” said Sell. “I definitely know how to mow the lawn in the pitch black of night now. We had to be finished by the time the park opened in the morning.”

His first night on the job was what he described as both the strangest and most fun.

“They stuck 10 interns in front of Spaceship Earth, and we had 90 minutes to replace 9,000 plants,” he recalled. “I’ve never had a teambuilding activity like that before, but it was great that they threw us right into the mix on day one.”

Last summer he returned to Disney as one of two landscape architecture interns.

“Once the attractions have been designed and built, the landscape architecture group takes over from there,” Sell explained. “I was involved in 30 different projects, from designing a ramp for a resort to making sure the sites where families meet-and-greet Disney characters are attractive for photos.”

On a typical day, Sell visited various attractions to check measurements, ordered plants, and assisted the professional landscape designers with whatever they needed.

“There are probably 20 different professions working together in the building I worked in, including engineers and designers, and it was great to see how a multidisciplinary group like that works together,” said Sell.

President of the URI chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a drummer in the URI marching band, Sell said that he is pleased with the opportunities that the University has offered to conduct outreach programs in the community. He visits high school and middle school classes to discuss career options in the landscape design industry, a discipline with which most students are not familiar. And he organized a conference and expo for representatives of the “green” industry that filled URI’s Ryan Center.

“I’m looking at the possibility of going to grad school next year, and I’m in talks with Disney to return for another summer, this time doing a project management internship,” he said. “I hope that could lead to possible full-time employment later.”

Asked what his career goal is, he said, “I really want to stay within the world of landscape architecture and entertainment, maybe even creating landscapes for movie sets. Any way I can entertain people by using my design skills, that’s what I want to do.”